Tuesday, May 05, 2009

At-Game Recap: Streaking To 11 (April 4 / Dodgers 7, D'backs 2)

Vin's call last night: "Davis holds the ball at the belt, now raises it to the chest, drops it to the belt, into the windup, back he comes... Fastball, whacked into left field, and that ball is gone! And what a favor, Doug Davis, a 3 and 2 fastball to Manny Ramirez. One of the oldest expressions in baseball, 'It's like trying to throw a lamb chop by a wolf.'"

SoSG AC and I had just settled in our seats, bratwurst and beer in laps, when Manny unloaded on Davis' fastball and launched it into the left field pavilion in the bottom of the first. Manny had a 2-2 count, and then Davis threw a fastball low and away that Manny took for ball 3, and then he just uncorked one. Like most of Manny's home run shots, there was no doubt about it when it left his bat, it was just gone, with such an effortless swing it seemed to mock the 88-mph piece of meat (to use Vin's term) that Davis had served up. Elation. Euphoria. And after the two quick outs by Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson to start the inning, a quick grab of the momentum card early on in the contest.

Of course, the very next pitch saw Andre Ethier park another ball in the alternate pavilion--if you look at the mlb.com video highlights, the two scenes seem to almost overlap, as there was barely any time to rest between celebrating Manny's home run and rising up to celebrate Ethier's shot. 2-0, just like that. And the Dodgers went on to roll to a 7-2 victory.

Eric Stults pitched an admirable 5.2 innings (89 pitches, 4 Ks) and Ramirez, Ethier, and Matt Kemp all had RBI as well as multiple hits, as the Dodgers rolled to their eleventh home victory in eleven contests, a new National League record for home wins to start a season. The team does seem special, as many SoSG readers mentioned in the Game Thread and Post-Game Thread. And it's fun to watch.

But what made this game interesting for me was, like Doug Davis' affected delivery, how time slowed down for this contest, and how I really got a chance to enjoy everything. The fine folks sitting next to us, for example, who introduced themselves as AC and I got to our seats and opened up a great conversation. The gentleman comes to three games a year, and this was his first, he told me with glee as he clutched an old portable radio the size of loaf of bread on his lap.

"Is this radio on too loud for you?" he politely asked me, as I listened to Vin Scully's melodic voice wafting out of the machine.

"Not at all," I said, happy to partake in the audio along with him.

The gentleman's wife was happy to be there, too, starting up conversations with AC throughout the game.

"Does he always bring his glove to the game?" she asked AC, motioning to me, sitting on the edge of my seat, glove on my left hand.

"Yup," said AC. (Mind you, with Ethier-James Loney in the lineup at 4/5, I thought I might have a shot at some errant balls up the third base line.)

"Has he ever caught a foul ball?" she continued.

"Nope," lied AC. "But who am I to ruin the dream?"

The people seated behind us were equally excited. Three men, one woman, all eager to watch the game and share their bag of peanuts and root for the Dodgers loudly but respectfully. The woman, a petit blond wrapped in a shawl to protect her from the slight chill outside, was surprisingly the loudest of their bunch, particularly when Kemp was at bat.

"Here, look at this," she said, showing me an image on her portable camera. "It's Matt Kemp and I standing at the Topanga Mall. I saw him randomly one day, and I was so bummed since I had a baseball in my purse just the day before, but I had taken it out of my purse!"

The prospect of this woman carrying around a baseball in her purse, in the off-chance she might run into a Dodger somewhere, was priceless. I carry a baseball in my car, usually to grip or toss around as I'm listening to the game or fighting off road rage. But to carry an extra third-of-a-pound of weight with you in your purse? That's dedication.

What was even funnier was when she told me the shot of her and Kemp was taken last year. She just keeps it on her camera all the time. And she said she had a picture she took with Mike Piazza, which stayed on her camera for years.

Maybe it was because the people were so friendly around us last night, but everything seemed extra-vivid for me, like I was walking around on the set of What Dreams May Come. The Brooklyn Dodgers vegetarian pizza was outstanding (the second time was the charm for me, apparently). The Louisiana Hot Sausage that AC couldn't finish, but I was happy to oblige, was extra spicy. The beer seemed to stay cold longer in my little plastic cupholder.

I remember noticing an errant sparrow fly above me during the Ramirez HR celebration in the first inning, as if the crowd roar had awakened the bird from its nest and it needed to find a more pastoral setting to sleep. The night was cool but not so warm that I would have to wear anything over my jersey. AC ran into a random usher who handed him a stack of All-Star ballots, imploring him to "vote for all the Dodgers besides Manny; he's getting in anyway." Our aisle usher even said good night to me as I walked up the aisle (admittedly, a bit early, due to unforeseen circumstances).

It was just a wonderful, wonderful evening at the ballpark on a Monday night, much of which was due to the Dodgers' victory, but also was due to the incredible atmosphere that the Stadium delivers. It was such a great evening, I could even stomach seeing the Dodgers' triple play turned against us (which was cool to see, even if we didn't benefit from the play).

They say winning creates chemistry on the team, a theory to which I subscribe. But it was neat to see that winning may create chemistry in the stands, as well.


QuadSevens said...

"...winning creates chemistry in the stands."

I think you might be onto something here. I had a similar experience with friendly folks sitting near me on Sunday too. Baseball is just a game, but games are always more fun when you're winning.

Neeebs (The Original) said...

Maybe Andre is scared that some random lady will take a picture of him and keep it on her phone for four years. Blame him?

berkowit28 said...

Nice piece, nice atmosphere well conveyed. But how does one "prescribe to a theory", even if chemistry-related?

Steve Sax said...

whoops, typo. Corrected, thanks berk.

MR.F said...

Some random lady? If I took a picture with Andre, I'D keep it on my phone for four years.

Fred's Brim said...

Thanks for the article, Saxy, although it kills me a little - it makes me want to get back so badly - it has been too long

Steve Sax said...

I'm with you, Fred. It's nights like last night that make me want to get back there as soon as I can.

In fact, I just may do that...